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Gustav Klimt & Kuss


Gustav Klimt and the Belvedere

There are a number of links between the iconic artist Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) and the Belvedere in Vienna, which houses the world’s greatest collection of Austrian art. It was on the initiative of Klimt and other artists that the Moderne Galerie was founded in 1903, the institution that has evolved into the Belvedere. The aim was to create a place for contemporary Austrian art and to present this in an international context. The Belvedere’s curatorial work and exhibitions are based on this premise to this day.

Emilie Flöge and Gustav Klimt in the garden of Villa Oleander in Kammer (District Schörfling), Attersee, 1910


World’s Largest Collection of Klimt’s Paintings

With twenty-four works, the Belvedere holds the world’s largest collection of oil paintings by this iconic artist, including the two masterpieces from his Golden Period, Kiss (Lovers) and Judith, major portraits (Sonja Knips, Fritza Riedler, and Johanna Staude etc.), landscapes, and allegorical depictions. The collection also includes one of Klimt’s sketchbooks and his monumental Beethoven Frieze at the Vienna Secession. Gustav Klimt’s masterpieces are on permanent display at the Upper Belvedere. In this comprehensive collection, Klimt’s development can be traced from his early explorations of Historicism through to Secessionism and finally to his late work, which reveals the influence of the Fauves and the younger generation of Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele.
 
Gustav Klimt paintings at the Upper Belvedere 6


Highlight Kuss

The collection’s undisputed highlight is Klimt’s world-famous masterpiece the Kiss (Lovers), an allegorical depiction of lovers locked together in an embrace. Covering a surface of almost four square metres, Klimt’s personal style is impressively conveyed. Always receptive to new artistic accomplishments and ideas, this work combines design principles from Japanese art, inspiration from Byzantine mosaics and medieval panel paintings as well as the influence of Auguste Rodin, George Minne, and Edvard Munch. Through its exquisite ornamentation and its silver and gold applications, the couple seem removed from the perils of earthly existence and suffering. Kiss (Lovers) marks the culmination of the phase in Klimt’s art in which he explored the contrast between naturalistic, delicately painted passages of skin, and a planar, ornamental approach. The role of ornament was to communicate the pictures’ symbolic messages.

Biography

1862
Gustav Klimt is born in Baumgarten, a suburb of Vienna. He is the second of seven children born to Ernest Klimt, a gold engraver from Bohemia, and Anna Rosalia, née Finster from Vienna.

1876
At the age of fourteen, Klimt enrols at the Kunstgewerbeschule [School of Applied Arts], which is attached to the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, and starts his tuition in the painting class run by Professor Ferdinand Laufberger.

1883
Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst and their classmate Franz Matsch found the Künstlercompagnie [Artists’ Company]. They are awarded many commissions including decorative schemes for the theatres in Vienna, Karlsbad, and Reichenberg.

1885
The Künstlercompagnie creates the paintings for the ceiling in Empress Elisabeth’s Hermesvilla in Lainz, Vienna.

1886
One of the Künstlercompagnie’s most important commissions is painting the magnificent staircases and interior at Vienna’s Burgtheater.

1888
Emperor Franz Joseph I awards the Klimt brothers and Franz Matsch the Golden Order of Merit for their work at the Burgtheater and Gustav Klimt the Imperial Prize for his depiction of the auditorium in the Old Burgtheater.

1890
Commission to paint a series of paintings in the stairwell at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

1892
Death of Klimt’s father and his brother Ernst.

1894
Klimt and Matsch are awarded the commission for the ceiling paintings in the Great Hall at the University of Vienna, the so-called Faculty Paintings.

1897
Gustav Klimt co-founds and is the first President of the Vienna Secession.

1898
The Vienna Secession’s first exhibition and foundation of the magazine Ver Sacrum. Klimt becomes a member of the Internationale Vereinigung von Malern, Bildhauern und Graveuren [International Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers] and a foreign member of the Munich Secession.

1900
The Faculty Painting Philosophy is heavily criticized and causes an uproar in Vienna but wins the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris.

1901
Medicine, the second of the three Faculty Paintings, also unleashes a storm of protest.

1902
Klimt creates the Beethoven Frieze (1901/02) for the exhibition of Max Klinger’s sculpture of Beethoven in the Secession.

1903
80 of Klimt’s paintings are shown in the Secession building in a Klimt Collective. Klimt travels to Ravenna where the golden mosaics make a deep impression on the artist.

1905
Klimt leaves the Vienna Secession following differences of opinion.

1907
Klimt meets Egon Schiele.

1908
Opening of the Kunstschau exhibition including the first display of Klimt’s The Kiss (Lovers).

1910
Klimt participates in the IX Biennale in Venice.

1918
Gustav Klimt suffers a stroke on 11 January and dies on 6 February in Vienna.